The Constitution of the United States is the ultimate authority of and framework for the federal government. Much like the U.S. New College Student Alliance (NCSA) also has its own Constitution, outlining their rights and regulations.. As of January 2011, with the help of key students like second-year Gary Baker and thesis student and NCSA co-president Oliver Peckham, the NCF Constitution has been under an extreme state of revision.
Baker, who acts as Chairman of the Constitutional Convention, originally brought the need for a revision to Jordan Martin (‘07) as a response to the current administration’s confusion on what the rights of the NCSA truly are.
“We were dealing with an issue where the college was saying that [an action proposed by the student government] was illegal because we didn’t have rights except what the college granted,” Baker explained in an interview with the Catalyst. “About every two years the Constitution is up for review, and because of what happened I suggested that it be rewritten.”
During the 2011 spring semester, the Constitutional Convention met once a week to iron out details and remove extraneous information within the current NCSA Constitution. They hoped to improve and properly define the rights of the NCSA as stated in the Board of Trustees regulations, as well as to restructure positions in the Cabinet to allow for broader coverage of the needs with the student government. Baker described that from the original 50 page document, only about 15 pages now remain.
“We wanted to make it more comprehensive,” Baker pointed out.
However, in addition to rewriting the Constitution, the Convention has also been compiling information for revamping “The Great Book,” which is an all-encompassing look into the statutes surrounding the operations of the NCSA. The biggest change that this has included is a redefining of the power of the Towne Meeting and removing power from the executive branch of the NCSA.
“This will hopefully empower students to take a more active role,” Baker stated. “This [change] will decentralize power from the Cabinet.”
Baker described that while he is the person who comes up with all of the language for the rewrites, the drafts were all closely scrutinized, in particular by Peckham.
“[In debates] sometimes I win, sometimes he wins,” Baker said. “But it was beneficial to have the Cabinet represented in the process [considering] the consolidation of powers.”
Beyond the reallocation of authority, the Constitution and “The Great Book” also have proposed some other major changes. For example, the position of the Vice President of Public Affairs will be terminated and replaced by the new position “Speaker of the Towne Meeting,” which will be elected rather than appointed. Also, there will no longer be the position of the Alumni Representative: the job description will fold into the newly created position of the Vice President for Relations and Financial Affairs. This role will encompass the necessity for a sound financial expert for the NCSA.
Once both of the documents have completed their revisions, Baker will have to bring it before the NCSA Cabinet and then the New College Student Court to be approved before bringing it before a Towne Meeting. Once the Constitution is placed on a ballot and passed by a two-thirds majority, it and “The Great Book” will immediately take effect. Only after the Towne Meeting has approved them will the documents be taken to the administration.
Baker says that the final revisions of both the Constitution and “The Great Book” will hopefully be completed in time for the October Towne Meeting, and is very optimistic about their acceptance.